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A couple of days ago we came across an excellent article, “Health care for the Panama retirement dream,” on the Newsroom Panama site. It’s a great summary of the costs and insurance options, that you can read here.  We believe healthcare – how you’ll access it and how you’re going to pay for it, should the need arise – is an important consideration for any expat. We’ve blogged about this topic several times before, most recently in this post. Here are a few more of our thoughts and observations about the Panama healthcare experience: The Newsroom Panama article only lists hospitals in Panama City. Folks in our home province of Chiriqui can choose from two private hospitals, Hospital Chiriqui and Hospital Mae Lewis, in addition to the large, public Hospital Regional. All three are in David, capital of Chiriqui Province. We’ve now had several experiences with both Hospital Chiriqui and Mae Lewis,…

So, you’ve decided to try living outside your home country. Congrats – taking “the road less traveled” is a wise, and yes, courageous, choice. If you approach it with an open heart and mind, we promise you’ll be awarded with adventures and memories of a lifetime. As we’re coming up on our four-year anniversary of expatting – first in Panama and now in Colombia – here are our two cents how to expat, step by step.  As you do your research and start to narrow down your target country, you’ll read a lot of glowing reviews in magazines and on the internet extolling the benefits of different locations. Many of these sources paint a rosy picture that seems almost too good to be true (and you know the saying about that). A lower cost of living and a simpler way of life are especially big motivators for people from the…

Our first three months in Medellin have been busy. We’ve been preoccupied with getting our long-term visas and cédulas (a cédulas is a type of ID card that you need to conduct most business here), opening a bank account, signing up for healthcare, and — biggest of all — securing and furnishing a long-term rental. On top of it all, Susan had to deal with another major life event, the passing of her beloved dad on Jan. 26 in Texas. None of this left much time for sight-seeing, but now that we can take a breath, we’re getting reacquainted with everything that made us fall in love with Medellín to begin with. For those who don’t know, Colombians pronounce certain double-l words with a j, so “Medellín” sounds like med-a-jean.   A roof over our heads Almost every day I say to Susan, “I love Laureles!” And she says back, “Really,…

FULL DISCLOSURE: We’re about to put our house on the market in preparation for our move to Medellin, Colombia – but we started this post long before we thought about moving.  It’s a great time to move to Panama, and Boquete in particular! Just like any place, the housing market here is subject to ups and downs, and we’ve seen a couple just in the three-plus years we’ve lived here. When we first arrived in Boquete the rental market was very tight, which led us to purchase our home instead. (We wrote about our effort to find housing in 2015 here). Things are different now. At the moment there are many nice properties for sale, especially in the $300K-and-up range. Also, many homes that have been for sale for a long time (sometimes, up to three or four years) are beginning to move because their owners are finally dropping their prices.…

These rolling stones are gathering too much moss! Later this year we’re packing up and moving a bit further south to Medellín, Colombia. It’s a decision that’s been several months in the making, and our 12-day trip in late June sealed the deal. Although we’d been there twice before, this time we wanted to experience the city as residents rather than tourists. That meant staying in three different neighborhoods and spending a lot of time just walking around to get a feel for what life might be like in each. We’re already fielding quite a few questions from friends and family about this move, and some folks are scratching their heads a bit. So here are some Qs and As: We thought you loved living in Boquete and Panama! Why are you moving? We do love living in Boquete. We’ve made wonderful friends here and had unforgettable experiences. But deep…

After almost three years of expat living in Panama, we still hear two questions pretty frequently: 1) Is the cost of living really lower there than in the U.S. or Canada? and 2) What are your actual living expenses there? We’ll get to the second one in a minute, but as to the first — it’s highly subjective. Where are you coming from? Where in Panama do you want to live? How fancy do you want your lifestyle to be, and how important is “stuff” to you? Will you rent or own your home? How much do you travel? And those are just a few of the factors that come into play. Everyone’s situation is different, but here are a few facts about us. We’re not wealthy by any means, but we’ve both worked hard all our lives and planned carefully to secure a comfortable retirement. We came from Southern California,…

Do you need health insurance in Panama? That’s a question we get asked a lot, and the best answer we can give is that it depends entirely on your own circumstances and your tolerance for risk. One of the biggest determining factors for us, at least for the moment, is our ages (late 50s and early 60s). As U.S. citizens, we have a few years to go before we qualify for Medicare. We are not comfortable going without some type of coverage (also known as self-insuring), particularly since we travel often and spend a fair amount of time in the States visiting our family. When we first moved to Panama over two years ago, we talked about our initial forays into the insurance market in this blog post. We initially settled on a global policy from VUMI International Health Insurance, which luckily we never had to use. From the initial yearly…

Ah, Buenos Aires – I just can’t get my head around you! I’ve been trying to write this post for days but BA is such a complex, colorful, musical, noisy, frenetic, delicious, exhausting city that I just don’t know how to capture it. So here’s a cop-out, a few of the stories that have had the biggest impression on us (so far):

Three months ago today, we arrived in Boquete and began our new lives as Panamanian expats – and we’ve never looked back. These have been the most rewarding, interesting, and stimulating months of our lives, and that includes our three years of sailing travel. Already, we have made friendships and memories that we will always treasure.

Our three-month milestone seems like a good time to stop and reflect. We’re feeling philosophical because things have been a little rocky for the community lately. In addition to the untimely deaths of three beloved citizens, there have been some break-ins and robberies that have made everyone take a closer look at security issues. At the moment, many Boqueteñas (including locals) are grieving and a bit on edge.

Ah, health insurance – such a necessary evil (or evil necessity). At this writing, the U.S. Supreme Court has just announced that it is upholding a key provision of the Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as the ACA or Obamacare. We believe the ACA is a step in the right direction for U.S. citizens but still has a long way to go towards ensuring universal, affordable healthcare for all. Hopefully, with this ruling, the politicians will stop wasting time and resources trying to defeat the act and start working on how to make it better (and on that day the air will fill with porcine aviators!).

Lucky for you, I’ll get off that soapbox and explain how John and I are approaching the health insurance dilemma as Panama expats. It’s a complicated topic, so hang on!

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